Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wine Bloggers Conference 2009: One picture is worth a thousand words

And my last blog on the WBC 2009 - -

Take one Beer Wench Blogger by the name of Ashley “Wenchie” Routson.

And one serious Pinot Blogger from the Russian River Valley, CA by the name of Josh Hermsmeyer.

Toss in one rubber chicken by the name of "Don Quixote" compliments of Twisted Oak Winery


Walla Walla get ready for the Wine Blogger's Conference 2010!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

17 Things I Learned at the WBC 2009!

1. I learned when people tell me how difficult it is to fly into Walla Walla to stand up and tell those naysayers to "buck up!"

If Lewis & Clark didn't have any problems finding the place on foot, neither should they have a problem finding Walla Walla via planes, trains or automobiles.
After listening to criticism after criticism of why Walla Walla wouldn't make the best place to have a Wine Bloggers Convention in regards to our small airport, extra miles, etc., to all of those critics, I wanted to cast a spell that all of the wines in their cellar turn to boxed white zin!

You can almost place six Sonoma County/Santa Rosa Airports (aka Charles M. Schultz Airport - you know, Snoopy's Dad?) into one Walla Walla Regional Airport. Then there is the $40 cab ride to destination Flamingo Hotel, Santa Rosa - WBC 09! Umm...the Marcus Whitman Hotel will complimentary shuttle your butt to their hotel, destination WBC 2010.


2. Once I finally arrived at destination WBC 2009, I learned that the Flamingo Resort Hotel has a lot of history. It was very glamorous and well appointed with the 1950's Hollywood/Las Vegas style. I kept wondering when Luci and Ricky Ricardo would check in.

3. Friday morning I discovered that I will never become an Ambassador for the Secret Sherry Society. Even the expensive stuff tastes like the cheap stuff, with the exception of the Fino style - the driest and palest of all Sherry varieties. I enjoyed the Fino very much and can see myself purchasing a few bottles.

4. Friday afternoon I learned I really liked "Live Wine Blogging" (aka "Speed Dating"). After lunch every table is "romanced" by several winemakers as they pour you a glass of their wines. You taste and then blog or twitter about it on your laptop or phone to get the message to your readers about the experience. However, even though I loved this, I failed miserably as I was too busy chatting with my lunch companions.


5. I learned I should have gotten my liver in better shape before I headed to California!

On Friday, somewhere between registration check-in and visiting the sponsors who welcomed us with glasses of wine, along with "Speed Dating," the "Grand Tasting of Sonoma" located at the pool patio before dinner, including wine tasting during dinner, that by the time I made it to the "After Hours Party" hosted by the Russian River Valley Wine Growers, my palate was fatigued! So I sat by the pool for awhile under the stars waiting for the ghost of Jayne Mansfield, who use to frequent the Flamingo Hotel pool. She didn't show.

6. Saturday morning I was delighted to learn that the former Christian Brother's Brandy Distillery was now the home of the CIA - Greystone.

The Culinary Institute of America was our host for the morning, complete with a continental breakfast. The last time I drove by the former distillery in St Helena, the distillery had moved out and the old building was not what she could be. The buildings and the gardens are now gorgeous!

Our key note speakers at the CIA were guests were Barry Schuler - former CEO of AOL and Jim Gordon, Executive Director of the Symposium of Professional Wine Writers and Current Editor of Wines & Vines magazine.

7. I learned from Barry Schuler that he and Al Gore created the internet while smoking pot one evening and their creation of the internet was with us wine bloggers in mind.

8. I learned from Jim Gordon how important it is to spell correctly when blogging. He reminded me of my junior high writing instructor as he told us, not once, but several times the importance of spelling or at least using some kind of spell check. Yeesss Mr. Gordon.

But more than that, Gordon also touched on an important issue brought on by last year's California wildfires. With wildfires, there is the potential the smoke can effect the actual grape's physiology, as the smoke can effect not just on the skin surface, but the smoke can permeate the pulp, as well. With that said, there certainly is the potential for serious smoke taint in Washington State since we have been known to have our share of wildfires, especially in the North and through the greater Columbia Valley AVA.

9. I learned that sitting in the back of a bus for two hours on twisty Napa Valley roads and digesting bus exhaust makes me nauseous. Even too nauseous to taste wine.

10. I learned a new road trip song. Sung to the tune of Do-Re-Mi (from Sound of Music). "Do is what I buy my wine with. Re is who I buy my wine from! Mi is who I buy my wine for. Fa - lalalalala..."

11. I learned the importance of "Green" in the Napa Valley.

It's difficult to fit 277 wine bloggers and their tools into one bus, so we were split up into seven buses and taken to different wineries in the valley. Our bus (#4) was sent to Cuvaison Estate Winery, where we met with Jay Schuppert, President. We were treated to a beautiful lunch prepared with local produce, while Jay informed us of their remarkable green program - from solar panels to staff carpooling. Not only was Jay informative, but he and his staff were hospitable and extremely generous.

Later on the bus someone raised the question if we thought Napa Valley was really that into "green" as they professed. Questions were raised if perhaps "green" was really only a trend or maybe a marketing ploy. My contribution to the question is I totally believe that overall, Napa and Sonoma actually live "green." I base that on several trips to Northern California visiting friends and peers and they really do "walk the walk." Remember, we are talking an area where the original "hippy" movement evolved.

12. I learned that even I can share my blogging knowledge with long standing wineries from California.

Our bus visited Staglin Family Vineyards/Winery and was met by Shari Staglin (remember Shari and Garen from the movie, "Mondovino"?) Joining Shari and Garen Staglin were representatives from other wineries, including Russell Weis, General Manager of Silverado Vineyards. We all gathered around the table for a panel discussion of "Does Size Matter?" No we didn't talk about an article from a Cosmopolitan magazine - - we talked about the sizes of wineries and why a owners, winemakers choose them. Eventually, the discussion came back to us - - the wine bloggers.

I couldn't stand it any longer. I had to ask Shari and Russell if they blogged. Neither one did and of course, I had to ask why? Shari said she didn't know what to say and Russell said he was scared. Well, I said, "Do it! Don't procrastinate! Do it now or you never will!" Then I got off of my soap box and ran to the bathroom.

13. I learned at the Grand Tasting of Napa Wines held at Quintessa Winery, that I was really home sick for wines from Walla Walla!

Though I will say the Cabernet from Cakebread made friends with my palate. But the high point for me at the tasting was the 1996 and 2006 Cornerstone Winery Cabernet Sauvignon that friend, fellow wine blogger and General Manager, Craig Camp poured for us! Beautiful Craig!

14. I learned that one of the best times of the day in the Napa area is at Conn Creek Winery just as the sun is setting. Bus #4 was taken there for dinner. As the sun set around their beautiful gardens we were treated to a delicious, fresh and colorful dinner! The Napa-style is all about loca-vore and loca-pour.








The other treat at Conn Creek Winery is their AVA Room Barrel Blending Experience where our dinner was held. Conn Creek was very generous and gave us the opportunity to blend our own wines from the various barrels representing the terroir from their unique AVA's.

15. Sunday morning I learned how to use social media, monetization and crazy videos on my blog.

16. I learned that I can no longer party like it's 1999.

17. I learned that all of favorite winebloggers are not the size of 80 x 80 pixels after all!

And if I never learned a thing at the WBC 2009, it was still worth the trip and the time to finally meet, break bread, drink wine, hug, laugh, discuss "blogging politics" with all of my wine blogging colleagues who I have been emailing, Twittering and linking with now for the last five years.

Live! KUJ (1420 AM) Wine Bloggers - Destination Walla Walla!

When Jim Bock, News Director of KUJ Radio located in Walla Walla, asked me if I would consider a live interview and suggested that if I was shy, he would make it easy...

Shy? Are you kidding? Where's the mic?

Turn the dial to Jim Bock on radio KUJ (1420 AM) at 7:30 this Thursday morning (July 30)! Jim will interview me about the upcoming Wine Bloggers Conference scheduled for June of 2010 in Walla Walla, WA!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Faces of 2009 Wine Bloggers Convention

These are just some of the 277 faces that gathered this year in Napa/Sonoma for the Wine Bloggers Convention 2009. In June of 2010 we will see these wonderful faces once again, but this time in Walla Walla, WA. I can hardley wait! These are my wine blogging homies - my online wine peeps and they will get to see what I have been blogging about now for over five years.






Wine bloggers are a curious bunch - wherever one goes, several follow. We migrate to other wine bloggers like ourselves, those who are ever faithful and have dedicated themselves to their craft.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wine Bloggers Convention 2010: Destination Walla Walla!

It's official! The Wine Bloggers Convention will be moved out of California to Walla Walla for 2010! The votes were cast, collected and counted and it's destination Walla Walla, June 25-27! The organizers of this event have lined up an incredible team of supporters including the Washington Wine Commission, Chateau St. Michelle Winery, and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. The convention will be held at our beautiful and historic Marcus Whitman. Check out this link for more info:http://winebloggersconference.org/america/2010-wbc-location-poll/

And a note to all of you WBC 09 convention wine peeps here at Santa Rosa/Flamingo Hotel - come see me and pick up your Welcome To Walla Walla token gifted by Tumac Outdoor Equipment and arranged by Michael Mettler, Marketing Consultant/Graphic Design and PR Hustler!!! And if you time it right - I'll pour you a taste of wine from Forgeron Cellars in Walla Walla! Welcome to Walla Walla WBC '10!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wine Bloggers Conference 2009: Sonoma, CA

This Thursday morning I will be flying out of Walla Walla to attend the Second Annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference held in Sonoma and Napa Counties, CA. on Friday, July 24 to Sunday, July 26th. I will be joining 2oo+ wine bloggers from all over the United States and even a few from Europe, as well as new media innovators, and wine industry leaders.

The conference will be filled with meet and greets, keynote speakers, panel discussions, vineyard walks, break-out sessions regarding wine blogging and social media, Grand Tastings of Sonoma and Napa Valley Wines and even a Live Wine Blogging gathering on Friday scheduled for 2:30 pm PDT! Oh, and one more thing - -

For over a year now, I have been throwing hissy-fits at WBC organizer’s Joel Vincent (what a saint!) about moving the WBC 2010 out of California and into Washington State. At times it’s been a bit controversial whether the WBC 2010 should be held at Woodinville or Walla Walla. Well, after much discussion, the votes have been cast, collected and counted. Stay tuned and follow me on Twitter, as Sunday morning the announcement will be made regarding the WBC 2010 Washington State destination - Woodinville or Walla Walla?

I will soon post a Twitter widget so you can follow me for live updates on my wine blogging journey!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Listen Up Gaming Geeks and Millennials: 8-Bit Vintners is here!

The story of Michael James and his wine project in Walla Walla is a great example of what I love about the Internet. You can find stories of interest just as close as your "own back yard." I couldn't wait to get ahold of Mike to find out the scoop of his up-and-coming wine project, named 8-Bit Vintners.

W5: Mike, I first heard about your wine project on my daily subscription to Google Alert. However, the website I checked out was not about wine. For me, it seemed a rather obscure website - - a gamer’s board named, Kotaku.com. I have to admit, I am rather clueless about gaming, even though I've been known to whoop some butts during a mean game of Ms. Pacman. But what was so surprising, and of course the most interesting to me about this website is you were listed as a finalist in a contest as having the "Most Unique Job" (a vintner)! So how did the contest end up?

Mike: It makes me so happy that you found me the way you did. It illustrates how the Internet can be such a great tool to promote a new or existing product with little or no marketing budget.

Anyway, so yeah, I'm a geek. I'm really into video games and I always have been. I remember the first time I picked up a controller to play Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo and I was mesmerized. I had a good buddy who lived down the street from me and when we weren't at school or playing sports, we were in his basement, or mine, trying to beat the newest game. I really cherish those times. I used to love reading the newest gaming magazines every month. Seeing all the upcoming games and picking the ones I just had to have. Unfortunately, most of those magazines have either gone under or web sites have replaced them. The site you found, the story about me on Kotaku is one of the most visited and well respected video game news sites on the web. When I found out that I was a finalist for their most unique job contest, I was pretty excited! To me, the best part was thinking of all the people that would see what I was doing with my wine. But, after three days of collecting votes, I came out on top and won a $1400 gaming laptop from Dell. It was a cool experience!

W5: I understand you just graduated from the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla. What was the driving force that sent you to the school? Your background?

Mike: I did just graduate. I had a great two years at the college. Next to marrying my wife, it was the best decision I (we) ever made. I graduated college in 2005 with a business degree and had been working various sales jobs and was really unsatisfied. I had been really passionate about wine for about three years at that point and decided it was time to make a change. I visited Walla Walla once before on a road trip around the western U.S. I loved the wine and the people of Walla Walla and remembered someone talking about a two-year Enology/Viticulture program. So, I applied. We moved up before the following new fall semester. I have always loved history and hand crafted things, so grape growing and wine making were an instant attraction. I worked my first harvest in 2007 for Bergevin Lane under Steffan Jorgensen (who makes fantastic wine). Then I was offered a tasting room position at Seven Hills Winery. That position turned into a sales/production position and I currently am the national sales rep for Seven Hills Winery as well as starting my own label, "8-Bit Vintners."

W5: Tell me more about your new winery project, "8-Bit Vintners" and your soon-to-be released wine named, "Player 1." Also, how about your gaming and how it ended up blending with viticulture?

Mike: "8-Bit Vintners" is a concept that I came up with when I was driving wheat truck for a local family in Walla Walla the first summer we moved here. You get a lot of time to think when you're up in those hills. I really wanted to do something different in the industry. Something that was totally unique and niche driven. I knew it had to be something that represented me and my passions, or people would see right through it. First however, and above all else, the wine should over deliver on both quality and price. I feel like you can go one of two ways when creating a wine label. You can either be incredibly broad and try to reach every demographic or be incredibly focused on reaching a very specific one.

I obviously chose to be specific. Incorporating my love of games and the nostalgia I have for the games of my youth seemed liked a no brainer. I feel like there is this untapped amount of people who grew up playing Mario, MegaMan and Contra, who now get zero attention in the wine industry. I hear all this stuff about marketing to Millennials and I struggle to find one wine label that does it effectively. Anyway, I knew it was incredibly risky, but with so much wine sitting on store shelves, I figured it was better to stand out than get lost in the shuffle. Currently, 8-Bit Vintners is producing wine in collaboration with Casey McClellan of Seven Hills Winery. My first wine, "Player 1" is a red blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Tempranillo, 10% Cab Sauv, and 5% of Carmenere and 5% Malbec. "Player 1" will be around a 250 case production. And next spring, I have plans to create a white wine called "Player 2."

W5: And what will the future hold for 8-Bit Vintners?

Mike: My dream, is that this is only the begining. I am working with a very limited budget and a lot of prayer. I would love to have my own facility one day and create a place that is carried on by my kids. I'm realistic to the challenges of starting a new label, but I never want to look back and say I should have. Oh, and I want to be the first to have a Pacman machine in my tasting room.

For more information about Mike James and to stay tuned to the lastest news about 8-Bit Vintners, check out: